A blue-and-white Chinese vase with an estimated value of less than $2,000 rocked the antiques landscape when it sold for $8.8 million during a heated bidding war at a French auction house over the weekend.
The vase, with its spherical body and a long cylindrical neck, measures 21 inches tall and is decorated with dragons and clouds, according to the listing at Osenat, an auction house near Paris that handled the sale. A valuation expert said the vase dated from the 20th century, and was not terribly special. Bidders thought otherwise, believing it is a rare example of an 18th-century Tianqiuping vase.
Jean-Pierre Osenat, president of the auction house, told CNN that the vase's owner, who lives abroad, asked the auctioneer to sell it as part of a consignment of items taken from their late grandmother's house in Brittany, northwestern France.
"It's going to completely change their life," said Osenat. "It's hard for them to come to terms with."
The grandmother was an art collector and had owned the vase for 30 years. Despite an expert's opinion that the Tianqiuping vase was fairly common, Osenat said there were early signs of interest in the vase when dozens of people came to examine it during a pre-auction exhibition.
Around 300-400 people expressed an interest in bidding, Osenat said. The house eventually limited the number of bidders to 30, all of whom paid a deposit to take part.
"I have faith in the hammer," Osenat said. "The view of an expert can't outweigh that of 300 people."
Tianqiuping vases are also known as "celestial sphere" vases because of their shape. The unidentified buyer is Chinese, Osenat said. In recent years, Chinese buyers at auction have actively pursued historic artifacts taken from their country in the past.